New Jersey ‘Torso Killer’ Finally Brought to Justice

Richard Cottingham, dubbed the ‘Torso Killer’, sentenced for multiple murders

On April 27th, 2021, after 47 years, serial killer and rapist Richard Cottingham confessed to the brutal murders of Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Kelly, 16, from August of 1974. Mary and Lorraine went to the Paramus mall from their North Bergen homes on August 9, 1974, to go shopping for swimsuits for a vacation to Jersey Shore. The girls were planning on taking the bus, but it started to rain very heavily. Cottingham, who saw the two girls, offered to give Mary and Lorraine a ride. However, instead of taking them to the mall like he had promised, Cottingham took them to a motel. He

would drown, rape, and brutalize the bodies of Mary and Lorraine, leaving them in the forests of Montavale, New Jersey, on August 11, 1974. On August 14,1974, the girls’ bodies were discovered by police. A newspaper article from the day the girls’ bodies were discovered in the woods as well as their pictures. On the top is Mary and the bottom is Lorraine. Photo credit: They were identified by police using Lorraine’s bracelet and necklace that read “Lorraine and Ricky”, a present from her boyfriend, and Mary’s gold cross, a present from her godfather. The murderer of Lorraine and Mary is already serving a life sentence in the New Jersey state prison for admitting to six separate murders in New Jersey and New York. Since 1980, Cottingham has been serving in the state prison for attempting to murder a woman. After he was caught, police questioned Cottingham, eventually finding out that Cottingham was indeed the feared “Torso Killer”. He has admitted to six other murders and recently pleaded guilty to the murders of Lorraine and Mary. Cottingham’s sentencing will be on July 9 for the murders of Lorraine Kelly and Mary Ann Pryor in 1974. He has already been sentenced for his eleven other confirmed victims, receiving six life sentences. On April 14, 2021, Cottingham admitted to killing Mary Ann and Lorraine after being interviewed by Chief Robert Anzilotti, the chief of detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. It was reported that Cottingham confessed to the murders in order to bring a sense of closure to himself, the families, and come “clean”. Chief Anzilotti’s hard work in this case led to him and Cottingham developing a strong bond or what is called rapport. This strong rapport with Chief Anzilotti also spurred Cottingham to admit to his crimes.

A picture of Chief Detective Anzilotti who questioned Cottingham and is now retiring. Photo credit: The nickname, the “Torso Killer” was derived from Cottingham’s cruel, unusual, and sick methods of brutalizing his victim’s bodies after he killed and raped them. Cottingham went on what is referred to as a spree or a mass killing in New Jersey and New York. However, in May of 1980, Cottingham’s spree was exposed as a result of him trying to kill a woman in a Hasbrouck Heights motel.However, before he could take another innocent life, he was caught by a maid at the motel who heard the screams, pleas, and the struggle of the potential victim. Thankfully, the police arrived in time, and the woman was saved but received multiple injuries such as bite marks, being tied up, and a knife wound all around her chest area. Cottingham was caught on the scene and has been in the New Jersey State Prison since.

As of now, Cottingham has 11 known victims, although he claims to have murdered dozens more. A picture of Cottingham, Jackie, Irene, and Denise from left to right, some of Cottingham’s other victims from his spree. Photo credit: Daily Voice. Some of Cottingham’s other known victims include Irene Blase, Denise Falasca, and Jackie Harp, killed between 1968 and 1969. Jackie Harp was 13 years old and was killed in July of 1968 while walking home after band practice.Irene Blase, 18 years old, disappeared and was killed on April 7, 1969. She was taken from Hackensack and found in the Saddle River. Denise Falasca was 15 years old, living in Closter and taken from Emerson on April 14, 1969. She was found in the Saddle Brook the day after. However, Cottingham has now been in the state prison system for a while, since the 1980’s for other murders. Confessing to more murders was all a part of a plea deal he agreed to, which gives Cottingham an additional two life sentences with the six he already is serving. That makes a total of eight life sentences on Cottingham now, bringing justice for what he did to innocent women and girls. Police are continuing to question and look into Cottingham's other potential victims.

Story by: Joey Jung, '23.